Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her latest book, Goodbye Newsroom, is Michelle Prak.
Michelle Prak is an Australian author, writing fun, modern rom-coms featuring heroines with exciting jobs. In her own day job, she has a PR consultancy, and teaches PR to wonderful university students. She is an avid social media user, and you might find her elsewhere online as Prakky.
Hello Michelle. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
I’m a big fan of lattes. My favourite accompaniment – for an ideal morning tea – would be the classic Melting Moment, with lemon rind included in the recipe. They’re such a ridiculous sweet and crumbly treat and they invariably make a mess, with more dispensed over the table and floor than goes in my mouth, but they are absolutely drool-worthy.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write in the romance genre, sub-genre romantic comedy, oft-derided name of ‘chick-lit’.
Can you describe your latest book, Goodbye Newsroom, in just a sentence?
Goodbye Newsroom is contemporary romance about two journalist sisters who find themselves out of work at the same time, and band together to create their own news site.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Goodbye Newsroom?
When the story jumped into my mind, it was “a little bit of character” and “a little bit of plot”. At the time, I was regularly reading about journalists being made redundant, and I wondered where they would go next. I’m a trained journalist and as a PR consultant, I work with media all the time. I began to speculate about how many would find another journalism job (in a shrinking industry), how many might shift into PR, or become a freelancer writer or so on. And while I was doing that, I could see a young woman in that position – being made redundant from a coveted newsroom job that she loved, and what turmoil she might experience as a result. I thought a compelling angle could be: what if she decided to be entrepreneurial, and set up her own media business?
At the same time, I’ve observed a growing number of young people ‘setting up shop’ quite early in their career, positioning themselves as freelance social media managers, or writers, or PR practitioners. That chutzpah fascinates me. I was intent on this being a fun novel about careers.
How long did it take you to write Goodbye Newsroom?
This is hard to pinpoint. The story has ‘existed’, if you like, for about three years. I worked on it on and off. I also drafted other novels. So, I can’t say how many months or years of steady work that it took.
I can say however, that having finished Goodbye Newsroom, my other manuscripts are coming together more swiftly! Goodbye Newsroom is very much my pilot project.
Can you tell us more about the main themes of your novel?
The main themes of Goodbye Newsroom are: shrinking newsrooms, pressures on the media industry, the evolving world of social media and how that has become professionalised. Secondary issues include social media trolling, and how women are represented in the media.
The two main characters Anna and Holly are sisters, so sisterhood is another theme – how sisters can work together and find that a benefit and a challenge.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
I’m surrounded by ambitious, creative, funny women who work in media and PR. It was easy to find a lot of inspiration there. I’m also someone who has set up two of her own businesses (one in social media consulting, one in PR) so my experiences have also inspired the character development.
What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing Goodbye Newsroom?
The most challenging aspect was keeping myself motivated to finish my first novel, and juggling that with running my own PR business. I am responsible for finding, winning and keeping clients. I need to manage PR strategies for them. That can take up a lot of ‘mind space’. Over time, I learned that the best approach was to have days earmarked for writing only.
The most rewarding aspect was re-reading my work and enjoying it! Or reading a passage of dialogue and giggling at what Anna and Holly were discussing. They have a lot of conversations about contemporary issues facing young women and young journalists. I looked forward to sharing it all with readers, and now that I’m in that phase that is the most rewarding part of this effort so far.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary fiction narrative?
A plot that continues to move forward, characters that are interesting (not necessarily likeable) and scenarios that a reader can empathise with. That’s what I like to read in fiction, and what I aimed to create.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Goodbye Newsroom?
I hope readers finish Goodbye Newsroom with a sense that they’ve inhabited a fascinating new world. I adore reading about other careers myself, and being transported into other worlds.
In terms of takeaways, readers have already told me they’ve learned a lot about the social media and news media industries. They’ve learned about ‘influencers’ – in many cases, they didn’t understand that new field before they read Goodbye Newsroom. I hope they might also reflect on how women are sometimes portrayed by the media, and that includes media organisations owned by and consumed by women.
If Goodbye Newsroom made it to the big screen, who would you like to cast?
This would be so much fun! Anna and Holly are both vastly younger than me, and in real life they’d be consuming TV shows and movies, podcasts and YouTube channels I’ve never heard of. So – not to dodge the question – but I think the ideal cast members would be young women I’ve not heard of yet. They’d have to be feisty, energetic and charming. The new Anna Kendrick, perhaps.
How did you make the transition to a published author?
I’m an indie author and I’ve taken the self-published route. As a business owner and a publicist, that was the most natural route for me. I did approach traditional publishers in the beginning, but the timeline for hearing back from them was very disheartening. I realised I wanted to be in control (plus, I couldn’t wait to share my stories!) So my transition has been self-propelled, it’s been a rollercoaster of learning and reading and research (and mistakes). And all throughout, I’ve maintained my day job.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
My desk is at a window with a (struggling) climbing plant outside, and I often see birds landing there. It’s the same space I use for work, and I don’t find it too difficult to separate the two: it’s all about my mindset. Occasionally I find the need to break away from the sense that I’m chained to the desk, so I write with my laptop in bed. It’s surprising comfortable and efficient. I love the outdoors and my dream would be to write in the sunshine all day, but we all know the struggles of sun shining on a laptop screen!
There’s nothing particularly vital to get started: just the ‘roadmap’ of my story outline and a relatively quiet house.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
Find the writing method that suit you. I struggled with finishing a novel (for years) until I literally Googled ‘how to write a book’ and found the approach that worked for me. I’m mostly a plotter – so I draft a few paragraphs for every chapter of the book, right up until the end. Then, I find it’s a much easier process to flesh out those chapters and write the darn book! I would battle writer’s block if I did it any other way.
What is the best part of being a published author?
Hearing feedback from readers. Seeing your characters come to life on the page.
What is next on the horizon for Michelle Prak? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
My second novel is in the hands of my commissioned editor, so I’m looking forward to her initial feedback. Beta reader feedback has been enthusiastic. It’s a romance with a touch of suspense, and a lot of silliness, actually. I walk around seeing the cover image in my mind. I think people will adore the premise of that story.
I’ve mapped out the sequel to Goodbye Newsroom and I’m writing that currently. I’m excited about the character I’ve chosen to focus on. This will become the HollyAnna series (I see there being a third and final one).
I also have a few first-draft novels on file, sitting around the 60k word mark. I need to return to those and decide if I still like those stories, and how to best complete them.
What book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m a big Margaret Atwood fan, so I’m beside myself that she is returning to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, which I read many years ago.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Referring to an earlier question – Margaret Atwood! She’s such a talented writer who has produced some amazing stories. She’s also passionate about the environment. I’d love to chat books with her – and try to find out if she likes the TV version of Handmaid’s Tale.
If I could ‘bring a pot of tea’ to any table, I’d love to observe a script writing session – say, for some immensely talented TV writers who have produced a series like Veep or The Good Fight. It would be a privilege to watch them string out the plot and stay true to the characters they’ve created.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Michelle. Congratulations on the publication of Goodbye Newsroom!
Thanks so much! This was fun.
When reporter Anna is sacked from the newsroom, she limps home for sympathy from her sister and housemate, Holly. But she discovers that Holly is jobless too, after resigning from the Fairweather Report, a celebrated women’s website.
Now, Holly has grand plans for starting her own online media empire, and she insists that Anna joins her.
Anna’s first task? She’s whisked away to an influencer tour of Uruguay. It’s scary stuff for a reporter who barely knows the difference between hashtags and HTML, but at least handsome Donovan is there to help.
Life becomes even trickier when Holly publishes Anna’s romantic adventures on their fledging website. The sisters become an online sensation, but Anna is furious that her private life is being used for clicks.
Will the sisters stick together and make a living in this new media world? Or will Anna return to a newsroom again?
And who is Holly’s menacing and persistent troll?
If you love career stories like Devil Wears Prada or The Bold Type, you’ll adore Goodbye Newsroom, a modern ode to self-made young women whose greatest tools are their smartphones.
Goodbye Newsroom by Michelle Prak was published on 19th February 2019. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Michelle here: